Recently I went on a cruise to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and to Labadee, a peninsula on the northern coast of Haiti.

I had planned to get my hair braided, but I wanted to get it done in Haiti, because the Haitians really needed the money. Labadee is an hour’s drive from where the January earthquake happened. Our ship was part of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, the only one with a port in Haiti.

When I woke up at the port, I saw that it was pouring rain! Since this would be a rare opportunity, my parents and I decided to walk around Labadee, anyway.

We saw all the merchants’ small stalls covered in tarps so the items they were selling wouldn’t get wet.

Near the shops, there happened to be a hair-braiding station with no line because of the rain. About five women were helping do my hair. One held the water in a bowl to make my hair easier to braid — even though it was already wet from the rain. Another braided my hair, another held a box of colorful beads and two made sure everything was going smoothly.

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Kidsday reporter Laura Fallick gets her hair braided by Haitians in Labadee on a recent cruise there. Photo Credit: Newsday Photo/Alan H. Fallick

The women were speaking Creole, which is partly based on French. I don’t think they spoke any English because whenever my parents or I said something to them, their manager, a man, always answered.

The woman braiding my hair was pulling it hard to get the braids tight, and it hurt badly. Although I was in a lot of pain, I knew that I would be very happy with the results. Whenever you get cornrows, you should make sure the person doing your hair is making it tight so it stays in place a long time. So you do want it to hurt! That’s how you know they’re doing a good job.

Kids might wonder, “How will I be able to wash my hair with the braids without ruining them?” The answer is: Lightly add shampoo, then conditioner if you use it, between the braids. Then lower the shower’s water pressure, if you can, and wash out the shampoo or conditioner and do any part of your hair that’s not fully braided.

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If you go into the hot sun, put sunscreen on your scalp between the braids so your head doesn’t get sunburned. I know from experience . . . it wasn’t fun!

I enjoyed this opportunity to get my hair braided, and I’m glad the money I spent on the hair braiding went to the Haitians, who desperately needed it. I hope I can do this again, but for now, I have the memories that will last a lifetime.

Kidsday reporter Laura Fallick shows off her newly braided hair while on a cruise in Haiti. Photo Credit: Newsday Photo/Alan H. Fallick